Empty Nesters: It’s Time to Fly!

empty nesters

Seeing your child off to college for the first time can bring mixed emotions. On one hand, you have the empty bedroom down the hall, which perhaps feels emptier than ever. On the other hand, you—like more and more parents of college kids—might begin to discover the positive changes that having a so-called “empty nest” can bring.

Many find pleasure over the way their child has grown up and matured, ready to take on the world. Although my own children are young, I enjoy meeting high school seniors at the library where I work, asking them about their plans, their dreams. It’s an exciting time, and parents can enjoy that special time again through their children.

There is also opportunity for a deepening friendship with your child as you enter a new type of relationship. My mother told me that while she enjoyed having young children, she especially treasured the relationships she had with her children after they had grown up. She enjoyed the friendships and the peer-to-peer talk instead of the day-to-day rigors of child rearing. She even enjoyed getting to know my adult friends, hearing about our most recent night out or giving relationship advice to my girlfriends.

Other benefits of having fewer, if any, children to care for every day include an opportunity for couples to focus on each other more. In fact, couples may find they rediscover each other! Without little ones to care for, my parents began having lunch together every day; either she would meet him at the office or he would come home.

There is also time to travel and do activities that you have put aside because of your children. My father traveled frequently for his job and, after my brothers and I were out of the house, my mother starting going with him. They loved Carmel, California and Las Vegas. When we expressed surprise over Mom’s newfound love of travel, she told us, “The only reason I didn’t go before was because somebody had to stay with you guys!”

There is also the chance to explore a new hobby or get involved with a cause. If you’ve always want to learn how to paint with watercolors, now is the time. If you’ve always enjoyed dancing, take a dance class. Better yet, get your husband to put on his dance shoes and take a couples class—swing, tango, or waltz your way to better health and a better relationship!

Which brings up another point: get out and get moving. Both are good for the soul, and you never know what other benefits might come along with it. My mother started taking long walks around the neighborhood. She passed the same woman every day and eventually they stopped and talked to each other. My mother wasn’t the outgoing type, but this woman was; soon they were shopping, having lunch, and attending performances of local community theater groups together.

Even though there are opportunities to feel positive about your empty nest, you may still feel some sadness and grief over the change. It’s natural. After all, there is still that empty bedroom down the hall. And there will be some worry about your child: hoping they keep themselves safe, that they make good decisions, and that they study and do well in school.

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to go through these challenging times alone. Remember my mother’s walking buddy? Reach out to other empty-nesters. Talk to other parents of college-bound children. There are many support groups online.

If you cannot shake your feelings of sadness or you find it hard to get motivated and excited about your own life despite the empty nest, it may be time to seek professional help. There are many therapists who have experience with these issues.

Like any other transition in life, having an empty nest has its challenges and rewards. Focus on the joys and opportunities your new status brings, but don’t be afraid to seek help either.

 

 

California Chicken Wrap

63286 Stuffed Pita.tif

Got lunch? This super-easy and healthy wrap is a great way to change up your brown-bagging routine.

 

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 10 minutes

  • 3          tablespoons Hellmann’s® or Best Foods® Mayonnaise Dressing with Olive Oil
  • 4          6-inch fajita size whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 12        ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
  • 1          medium avocado, peeled and sliced
  • 1          red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/4       cup sliced red onion
  • 2          cups mixed salad greens

Spread Mayonnaise Dressing with Olive Oil on tortillas.

Layer chicken, avocado, red pepper, red onion and salad greens down center of each tortilla.

Roll and fold the filled tortillas.

 

Content Courtesy of Hellman’s / Family Features

Healthy lifestyle tips for academic success

kids breakfast shutterstock_92577664

(ARA) – Excitement for the new school year is growing, and whether it’s preschool or high school, all parents want their children to do well both academically and socially. Parents can do some simple things at home to help set their children on the right path to reach their full potential.

Dr. Keri Marshall is a mother, licensed naturopathic doctor and school lunch nutritional advocate. Here are her top tips for parents who want to give their kids a great start in the classroom.

 

1. Eat a balanced breakfast

Children’s bodies and developing brains need healthy nutrition to grow. That’s why breakfast is so important after a good night’s rest – it helps your child feel energized and productive and supports him in a way that enables him to have a positive day. Skipping breakfast can leave your child feeling sluggish and irritable, and may even promote nausea and headaches. Some studies have shown that routinely skipping meals can lead to obesity because children will seek more calories later in the day.

Start the day off right and give your kids a healthy breakfast that includes protein, fruit and whole grains. A balanced breakfast will leave them feeling satisfied until lunch so they can focus on academic and social skills while at school. Include foods such as whole grain toast or oatmeal, fruits like berries, bananas and apples, and protein-rich options like eggs, yogurt and milk.

 

2. Start every day with healthy essential fats: omega-3s

You may have heard of EPA and DHA as omega-3 elements in fish oil supplements, but just how critical these are for your child may surprise you. Omega-3s are essential nutrients found in fish oil and have been shown to improve children’s cognitive development and support overall good health. Lower levels of omega-3 are associated with behavioral disorders including attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This fatty acid is essential for brain and eye development before birth, and continues to be essential for cognitive development throughout childhood.

Providing adequate levels of omega-3s through a child’s diet can be difficult, and studies show that most children (and adults) are deprived of this essential good fat.

 

3. Daily rhythms are essential

Children benefit from having a regular routine each day. These daily rhythms help balance the day so kids can physically and mentally know what to expect. Of course every busy family needs to be flexible, but establishing a routine should be a priority.

Start at night when it’s time for bed. Try to put children to sleep at the same time every evening. If you allow for before bedtime activities like reading or baths, start those well ahead of time. A regular nighttime routine will help lead to a regular morning routine where the body wakes up more naturally at the same time each morning, ready for a productive day at school.

 

4. Make time for exercise

It’s likely that your child gets some exercise at school during gym class and recess, but it’s important to include exercise and play after school as well. Exercise not only helps kids maintain a healthy weight and encourages muscle and bone strength, it also helps children burn excess energy so they sleep better. Remember, children should exercise for 30 to 60 minutes every day after school.

Exercise for kids can be a lot of fun. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests three different types of physical activity for children: aerobic activity which can include running, biking and dancing; muscle-strengthening activity such as gymnastics or push-ups; and bone-strengthening activity such as jumping rope or soccer.

These tips will help put your child on the path to success for the upcoming school year. Healthy lifestyle choices and good nutrition make all the difference, supporting a healthy body and mind, and may even help your child reach the top of the class.

Protect Your Children From Cyberbullying

cyber bullying

(StatePoint) Most parents are familiar with traditional bullying that takes place at school and on the playground, but as life has gone digital, so has bullying.

“Cyberbullying, bullying that occurs through technology like computers and mobile devices, is often harder to detect than traditional bullying. The bully isn’t immediately visible and may not even be known to the victim,” says pediatrician Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O`Keeffe of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and author of “CyberSafe: Protecting and Empowering in the Digital World of Texting, Gaming, and Social Media.”

“Because of this, cyberbullying is often more upsetting to victims, with even more profound and long-lasting effects,” Dr. O’Keeffe said.

While the anonymous nature of the digital world does pose a challenge to identifying cyberbullies, O’Keeffe notes, parents can take an active role toward combating this 21st century problem.

Here are tips for parents to get a handle on cyberbullying, whether your child is a victim, a bystander or even participating in the bullying:

• Monitor your child’s digital technology use. Be on the lookout for behaviors like quickly switching screens and having multiple passwords and accounts.

• Teach your child to come forward if he or she knows a friend is bullying others or being bullied. Being a bystander helps perpetuate the cycle and continue someone else’s pain.

• You may think your child is safely using a digital device in the next room, but any child online is at risk for being bullied. Not all children are going to let you know if there’s a problem, including teenagers. If your child is acting withdrawn, evasive or unusually sad — especially after using a digital device such as a computer, video game or mobile phone — ask if everything is okay. Regularly converse to open the line of communication.

• Cyberbullies may think they are acting anonymously, but they can be tracked by authorities. If your child is a victim, save the offending emails, IMs, and texts, and get the school involved if possible.

• If you worry your child is in serious danger, or the other parents refuse to help end bullying, call the police.

• Find out what your child’s school’s policies are on bullying, cyberbullying and digital devices. If the rules are insufficient, talk to the teachers and principal about establishing sensible regulations.

• Don’t raise a bully! Foster empathy by talking regularly about how actions and words affect others. Set a good example by always treating others with respect yourself, both online and offline.

• Help children develop constructive strategies for getting what they want that don’t include teasing, threatening or hurting others.

• Don’t assume that a normally well-behaved child is guilt-free. The faceless digital world makes it easy for even good kids to sometimes be mean.

More information about cyberbullying can be found on the AAP parenting website, www.healthychildren.org.

With a new school year come new challenges. Learn about the realities of cyberbullying and what you can do to protect your children.

*****

Get Your Kids To Read More

kid reading

(StatePoint) The start of a new school year is a great time to emphasize the importance of reading at home. Solid readers perform better in school and in the workplace, have a healthy self-image, and become lifelong learners.

Research shows a whopping 45 percent of children ages 3 to 5 are not read to daily, and this lack of literature can take a negative toll on school performance. Luckily, there are many things parents can do to make kids passionate readers.

“Reading stimulates children’s imagination and expands their understanding of the world,” says actress Kate Beckinsale, who is teaming with “The Nestlé Share the Joy of Reading Program” to raise awareness about the importance of children’s literacy and support the work of Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the largest children’s literacy nonprofit in the United States.

If you’re looking to make reading a bigger part of your children’s lives this school year, here are some great tips to get them motivated:

• Start young. Reading aloud to children at an early age is the most effective way to help them attain critical language and communication skills and instill great habits.

• Take advantage of free online tools and resources that help make reading an engaging, shared experience for parents and kids. For example, RIF’s “Leading to Reading” website contains activities for children ages birth to 5.  Visit www.rif.org/kids/leadingtoreading for more information.

• Variety is the spice of life! Be sure your house contains plenty of books to choose from on a variety of topics.

• Launch a children’s book club with other parents. Take turns hosting your children’s friends for snacks and a lively discussion on the book of the month.

• Kids love getting mail! Subscribe to children’s magazines so they’ll have something fun and beneficial to look forward to each month.

• Make sure children have their very own library cards and become frequent patrons at your local library.

• Be it the morning paper or your favorite novel, set a great example by making reading a daily habit for yourself.

• Many literacy programs supporting underserved communities are currently experiencing federal funding cutbacks, but everyone deserves a chance to read. Invest in the lives of other children who might not have the same opportunities as your kids. For example, right now, every time you enter a promotion code found inside specially marked packages of Nestlé and Wonka candy at www.CelebrationCorner.com/RIF, Nestlé will donate money to RIF, to fund purchasing books for kids.

Almost a quarter of public school fourth graders score below even the most basic levels on reading exams, according to National Assessment of Educational Progress. Don’t let your children fall behind.  Take steps this school year to help your children and others to hone this basic tool for success.

The Art of Saying No

say no

By Dr. Travis Bradberry
John Gailbraith’s housekeeper was a whiz when it came to saying no. One day in 1965 the noted economist was taking a nap when President Lyndon Johnson called his home. “He’s taking a nap and has left strict orders not to be disturbed,” his housekeeper told the President. Johnson replied, “Well, I’m the President. Wake him up.” Her response? A simple: “I’m sorry, Mr. President, but I work for Mr. Galbraith, not for you.” Then she hung up.

Research from the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Saying no is indeed a major challenge for most people. Anyone who suffers from the stress that comes from over commitment can get help themselves by following these simple strategies for saying no.

1. Find your yes

Before you can become good at saying no, you have to know what you’re saying yes to when you’re saying no. You see every opportunity that you pass with a no is really saying yes to something else—something that you’d prefer to do or something more important to you in the long run. You can’t hope to say no when the pressure is on until you know for sure what you really want. When you’re feeling pressure to say yes and acquiescence feels easier than taking a stand, just think of your yes. If joining the PTA fundraising committee means spending even less time with your children, focusing your attention on this fact will embolden you to say no and keep your priorities straight.

2. Sleep on it

Even if you feel like saying yes (and certainly if you’re having doubts), ask for a day to think about it before providing an answer. It’s going to be much easier to say no once you’ve had time to consider all of your commitments and whether the item in question is a realistic addition to your schedule. This will also give you a chance to come up with the best way to say no.

3. Sandwich the no between two yeses

Sandwiching a no between two yeses ensures that your no will be more palatable. It’s also a great way to explain that to which you are already committed. For example, if your boss asks you to work on the
weekend, but you have family commitments you cannot break, explain these commitments to your boss (the first yes), how that prevents you from coming in on the weekend (the no), and finish by confirming your commitment to the company and your work (the final yes) by asking if there are other ways you can contribute that don’t require you to come in that weekend.

4. Make sure you’re actually saying “no”

Make no mistake about it, no is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, you need to avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Using limp phrases instead of saying no will often be considered a yes. Pulling this off requires a certain degree of emotional intelligence (EQ). When it’s time to say no, just say no!

5. Be prepared to repeat yourself

If you say no and the other party pushes back, the best thing you can do is repeat yourself. This is much easier to do when you recognize beforehand that it is often necessary. In some cases, you may have to
repeat yourself more than once. If you offered any explanation with your original response, you can repeat this explanation or just say no again. Don’t back yourself into a corner by trying to explain  yourself further. It is your right to say no to any request, and you’ll often need to be firm in order to have your intentions understood.

Putting These Strategies to Work

Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill these commitments. Saying no can certainly open doors; for example, when John Galbraith woke up from his nap, the first thing President Johnson wanted to know was the identity of the woman who told him no. After he found out, Johnson said, “I want her working for me.”

 

 

About the Author: Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and the cofounder of TalentSmart (http://www.TalentSmart.com), the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence (EQ) tests, emotional intelligence (EQ) training, and emotional intelligence (EQ) certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies.

Four Ways to Avoid Middle School Meltdowns

midde schoolers

For many kids, middle school will be the most difficult school years of their entire lives. First, there’s the novelty of changing classes; along with that comes five or six different teachers, learning how to operate a locker, handling an in-flux schedule, and arriving to classes on time. Students are expected to handle more responsibility and deal with increased pressure. And then there’s the social challenges (friends/enemies/frenemies) that can make life downright miserable sometimes, or even most of the time, for so many kids.

But like all challenges, the trials and tribulations of middle school also offer opportunities for growth, both academic and personal. It’s a time of gaining independence and maturity in conjunction with learning more advanced concepts and intellectual capabilities. Sometimes, having a few simple strategies in hand helps to make the most difficult aspects a lot less insurmountable.

Problem #1: The classes are harder, and your child seems to be overwhelmed and frustrated. Between the more difficult level of work, higher expectations, and more responsibilities, it’s easy for your child to get overwhelmed—and resistant. As she wails, “I can’t do this!,” even the most self-possessed eleven-year old suddenly resembles a kindergartener. And when her frustration increases, so does yours. Homework time becomes battle time.

What to do: Help her break her workload down into smaller, more manageable pieces—then set a time limit. For example, encourage her to focus on one or two questions for just five minutes. No griping or crying; just five minutes of silent concentration on her work. Then she can take a small break to check in with you and evaluate her progress. Likewise, breaking her large workload into smaller chunks or sections makes it more manageable. Encourage her to focus just on what’s in front of her, then move on one step at a time.

Problem #2: Assignments are getting lost or forgotten. One of the most challenging aspects of the transition from elementary school to middle school is going from one teacher to five or more teachers, each with her own requirements, expectations and teaching style—including her own methods for assigning homework, quizzes and tests. Some teachers will hand out notes on the class subject matter, while other teachers expect students to take responsibility and write down assignments and quiz and test dates. And although most students are given planners or homework agendas in school (and if yours is not, it would be a great idea to buy one), not every child is the type to use it. A disorganized student who forgets to write things down will quickly see his grades drop as he misses a homework assignment here, a quiz there, and even forgets to study for a test.

What to do: There are a couple of different (and somewhat opposite) ways to approach this, and will probably depend on your parenting style and your child’s personality. If you like to be proactive and in control , then start checking your child’s agenda nightly. If his teachers post homework online (as many do), make sure there are no gaps between the teacher’s homework assignment and your child’s agenda. If the teacher doesn’t offer homework assignments online, and the problem seems to be ongoing, then you might want to contact her via email or phone about what might be causing the problems and brainstorm approaches to solve them.

The second option is to simply back off, and allow the consequences—poor grades—to occur. Seeing the results in black and white may be enough for your child to put more effort into staying organized, and for some students, it’s a far more powerful lesson than a parent’s remonstrations to try harder.

Problem #3: The wrong kind of studying undermines his grades. In elementary school, it was often enough to just reread or review the material before taking the test. Now, the material is more difficult and requires a more sophisticated approach.

First, make sure that your child has acquired the habit of excellent note-taking during classes. If not, work with him to demonstrate how to jot down key words and concepts and to listen for any items that the teacher repeats or emphasizes.

With good notes in hand, your child can try out different methods of studying—highlighting passages from notes, making notecards, doing practice problems (especially good for math), creating diagrams or timelines. Depending on your child’s learning style and the subject matter, various methods work for better in some studying situations than others. The key is to help him find what works best, and when.

Give your child the optimal setting for work: a clean, spacious, distraction-free environment with everything he needs (highlighters, paper, ruler, notes, textbooks) right at hand.

Problem #4: Drama, drama, drama. To say that middle school relationships are difficult is probably the understatement of the year. Peer pressure, bullying, gossip-mongering, mudslinging are everywhere, from the bus stop to the hallways to the lunch room to the P.E. class. How to help your child survive?

First, be a listener. Even if your child doesn’t approach you to talk about what’s going on at school socially, provide opportunities to talk together alone—go shopping, do errands, even ask her how things are going as you bring her to activities. In addition to listening well, you can validate what she’s going through and remind her that even if the going is rough right now, it will get better eventually. If she’s faced with a difficult situation, ask her about what some of the possible solutions are, then ask what she what she plans to do about it. To help her achieve independence and maturity, it’s better to let her decide on her own how to handle the situation (the exception being if it’s a dangerous solution), and let her handle the consequences. Step in to help her if she asks you to, but otherwise let her retain control of the situation.

Another great way to help your child get through the tough social years is to encourage an activity that allows her to develop friendships outside of the school walls. Sports, dance, art clubs—anything that gets her out of the house to make friends that she wouldn’t have known otherwise—allows her to have an identity beyond whatever drama is taking place in the school’s cliques. As for social media, you may want to discourage Facebook and other social media sites, simply because it’s too easy for drama to continue online. Text messaging can also be a double-edged sword; if your middle schooler texts (as so many do), keep an eye on the dynamic. Teach her to stay out of text conflicts by signing off if the conversation seems to be getting antagonistic.

No one ever said that middle school was going to be easy. But with understanding, patience, and a willingness to support your child—whether she needs a listener, a study buddy, or just a shoulder to cry on—you can help this time of challenge be a time of tremendous growth as well.

 

First Day of Preschool: 5 Tips to Avoid Tears and Tantrums

girl first day of school

By Maisie Knowles

Back to school is just around the corner. For many toddlers, it’ll be the first day of preschool and the very first day they’re away from mom and dad. My oldest daughter is starting preschool in the fall, and just the thought of her going off to school for the first time gets me teary eyed.

How will I handle dropping her off at her first day of preschool? Better yet, how will she deal with her first day? If I know my daughter, I won’t be the only teary eyed person at the classroom door. Not only will there be some weeping, but possibly a tantrum or two while I peel her off my leg and try to make a getaway.

To help make a smooth transition into the school year, I sat down with veteran moms and asked them how to survive the first day of school.

1. Tour the school with your child before the first day.
A tour will help your preschooler become familiar with her surroundings before getting dropped off by mom or dad. While visiting, meet the teacher, visit your child’s cubby, and get introduced to other children in the class. Make sure to act excited about everything you see. Your enthusiasm will help your child become more enthusiastic about school.

2. Go shopping with your child.
Yes, brave the toddler tantrums, grab your coupons, and take her to the store. Getting your child involved in picking out their own school supplies, backpack and clothes will help her mentally prepare for school. Give her the freedom to choose those gaudy, pink, sparkly shoes she loves. Tell her that she can wear them to school and show them off there. You can also have your child help you cut out or search for coupons for her school supplies. She’ll enjoy finding coupons for her items and will learn a simple lesson in savings.

3. Let Her DIY
On the first day of school, allow her to pick out her outfit, help pack her lunch, and prep her school bag. Remember to be over enthusiastic about all her choices and be super duper EXCITED ABOUT EVERYTHING BECAUSE IT’S HER FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!!! HIP HIP HOORAY!!!!!

4. Saying Goodbye
Now for the hard part — leaving your precious, screaming, teary eyed child at school. Give her a hug, kiss and a big smile at the classroom door. Wave goodbye and walk away. Don’t show any hesitation because, if she sees your uncertainty, it’ll make her uncertain about staying there.

5. Take It Easy Afterwards
The first day of school is over, but there’s one more tip for surviving the first day. Don’t plan on doing anything after school. Your child will likely be exhausted, so take it easy. Plan a nap and put together an easy dinner. The rest of the day, talk about what she experienced during her first day. Be upbeat about everything she tells you; remember, she’ll have many more school days when you’ll both want to share the excitement.

 

 

Maisie Knowles is the founder of BestBabyStuff.com, a website reviewing only the best baby products. She earned a B.A. in Communications from the University of Colorado in 2003 and currently spends most of her time at home with her two young girls.

Organizing for Back to School

kids desk

by Nicole Tyler Blair

 

Summer is coming to an end, and school is just around the corner. It always seems to sneak up on us, doesn’t it? But getting a little organized may be all we need to get us ready for the hustle and bustle of school again.

Think about when things seem to get the most chaotic. Getting out of the house in the morning? Homework after school? Well, try a few of these organizing tips to help lessen some of the stress that comes along with having little ones (or big ones) in school.

Prepare for Sendoff: Do you often find yourself scrounging around trying to fix lunches, find backpacks and looking for lost shoes? Prepare lunches and have everything labeled before going to bed the night before; it’ll make packing lunch boxes and school bags in the morning seem like a breeze. Have a designated place for keeping backpacks and school projects. A little nook in the entry way or kitchen are great areas for keeping these items so that you can just grab them on your way out the door. If space is at a premium in your home, try hanging heavy-duty wall hooks for backpacks and coats helps to keep things organized and off the floor (Anthropologie and Pier 1 have some great ones to choose from).

Tame the Paper Tiger: Any mom knows it can become overwhelming with the notes and reminders that come home with our kids from school. Hanging a message board near the backpacks or in the kitchen or homework area is a great way to make sure these little messages never get lost and that we are constantly reminded of what needs to be done. This is also a great place to keep a calendar and to do list for mom.

Make a space: It is very important to have a designated area for homework in your house, keeping in mind that what works best for you may not work for your children. First, pay close attention to how your children study and work best. Do they work more efficiently in silence, or do they need background music? Are they easily distracted, or does sitting next to a window help them stay relaxed and focused?

Once this has been determined, create an area for their study time, preferably including a desk or table that allows plenty of space for books and projects so that they are not constantly having to move items. A furnished book shelf with dictionaries, a thesaurus and other appropriate educational books should be nearby. Include storage containers with school supplies stored in them for the various projects your child will need to work on. You can use canvas storage bins, miniature plastic bins, baskets, drawer organizers, and so forth. School supplies should always be available and stored appropriately, such as pens and pencils, erasers, glue, a calculator, scissors (depending on age of child), ruled and graph paper, construction paper and highlighters. Make sure there is a filing system to keep all homework assignments for the week organized by subject or class. By maintaining an organized work space, it will make time spent on projects and homework more efficient. And creating a designated work area not only reduces the risk of losing important papers, but also creates an environment to put your child in “work mode.”

By getting yourself organized before the school year begins, you can make the organized chaos of the new school year a little more “organized” and a little less “chaos.”

Planning After School Activities For Your Kids

soccer kid

(StatePoint) Fun and learning can extend beyond the classroom.  From music and the arts to organized sports, after-school activities can help kids stay active and make lifelong friends.

Here are some great tips to keep kids active and engaged during the afternoon:

Sign up early: Many programs fill up fast. Be sure to sign your kids up for programs as soon as possible to ensure their enrollment.

Listen to your kids: As much as you would like your child to participate in certain activities, don’t push too hard. Let them explore all their options to find activities they actually enjoy doing.

Make scheduling convenient: If your child is active, you will be too. Plan activities close to home or school to limit time spent in the car.

Whether you’re setting up play dates, forming a time-saving carpool or heading up the PTA, mommy calling cards from an online stationery store like Minted.com is a unique way to make an impression, and share your contact information quickly with teachers, coaches and other parents.

Go informal: When the weather is nice, consider organizing an impromptu neighborhood bike ride or soccer game. If your child is artistically inclined, invite his or her friends over for craft time.

Encourage academic interests: At-home supplies can inspire your child to get excited about learning. A science kit, for example, can be found at any hobby store and will augment lesson plans with fun hands-on experiments. Personalized journals for kids, will encourage your young writer to put pen to paper and compose stories or essays.

Don’t overschedule: As with everything great in life, moderation is key. With rich, full school days, homework and after-school activities, don’t forget to give your kids time to unwind.

With the right after-school programming, you’ll be sure to keep your kids safe, active and happy, long after the bell rings.

8 Unique Ways to Save on Dorm Room Necessities

dorm room

This year’s crop of freshman is already gearing up for their first taste of college life. A main component of all that mad preparation is buying the basic necessities to outfit a dorm room. Some are happy to just throw twin-bed sheets, desk lamp and laptop into a box and call it a day. Others, however, know there’s a lot more to getting things in shape than this.

Just buying the basic necessities, however, can run into a pile of cash, so whoever is footing the bill may want to take a gander at these cost-saving tips.

Shop Sales-Tax Holidays
Just in time for back-to-school, 12 of the 17 states hosting sales-tax holidays this year occur in early August. Taking advantage of these holidays will ensure savings on everything from clothes to computers. Check out this guide from Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine to see if your state is participating, and when.

Price it Out
Price comparison sites will save you time in the hunt for dorm room deals. Price Grabber will locate the lowest prices on computers, printers, MP3 players and more. And the soon-to-be-released InkJetWilly.com will find you the best deal on ink cartridges once the fall semester is in full swing.

Get a Rebate
Rebates abound during back-to-school promotions, so keep your eyes peeled for deals and be sure to chat with sales associates to learn the details. For example, Best Buy is currently offering a 20-percent instant recycling rebate when you bring in an old fan or vacuum for a Dyson.

Shop on Craigslist
Craigslist is a great resource for previously-owned compact refrigerators, desks, futons or even a bike for riding to class. Buying all these items new will certainly break your budget, so remember to take advantage of lower cost alternatives. This strategy is sure to get you on the right financial foot as you head into the next phase of your life.

Use Student Discounts
Laptops and tablets give you the flexibility to escape dorm-room distractions and take your work to quieter places like the library or local coffee shop. This a good time to upgrade that high-school computer using one of the reduced-price student programs offered by Dell University and Apple Store for Education. Find other student discounts here, and be sure to take advantage of your status for savings.

Shop Special Sales
In the retail world, back-to-school time is almost as lucrative as the holiday shopping season, which is likely why Target is extending its “Black Friday in July” promotion into “Summer Cyber Week” this week. Take advantage of deals on electronics and everyday essentials like bedding and cleaning supplies.

Swap or Sell Your Stuff
Swap your old DVDs, video games and high school books in exchange for dorm room necessities at sites like Swap.com. You can also sell your gently used clothing at consignment shops for money or credit towards a new (to you) wardrobe.

Get Gift Cards with Purchase
Retailers are gearing up for back-to-school in a big way, offering gift cards with the purchase of college necessities. Get a $100 gift card to Apple when you purchase a Mac computer before September 21. If a tablet is more your style, you can get a $50 gift card with the new iPad. Not to be outdone, Barnes & Noble is offering a $50 gift card with the purchase of every Nook tablet (16GB).

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Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

Kids Perform Better In School When Parents Get Involved

parents reading

(StatePoint) Children spend five times as much time outside the classroom as they do in school. With all this time away from teachers, it’s important for parents to support their children’s learning.

In fact, children whose parents are involved with them in family literacy activities score 10 points higher on standardized reading tests, according to the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL).

“Learning can happen anywhere and at any time,” advises Emily Kirkpatrick, Vice President of NCFL. “Go beyond homework help and find learning moments in everyday life that fit in with your schedule.”

Here are some tips for how you can take a more active role in your child’s education:

• It all starts with you. With some preparation on your part, you can be a better resource for your child. Make sure that you, and those who spend time with your child, are well-equipped to support learning.

• Turn a household shopping trip into a fun chance to do math. Take a walk outside to discuss nature or the community. Make a lesson plan out of the world around you.

• Develop a partnership with your child’s teachers. Talk with them about homework and be sure you understand what is expected.

•Some children need and want time to play when they get home, while others may want to get homework out of the way first thing. Set a schedule for your child that works for him or her, and make it a routine. Just be sure that your expectations are clear.

• Reinforce the idea that homework is not punishment, but a chance to practice new skills. You can help make it fun by rewarding progress.

• Ask your children thought-provoking questions, like what they wonder about. For inspiration you can turn to free online resources that emphasize fun in learning, such as such as   www.Wonderopolis.org.

• Help set a timeline so that school assignments are not left until the last minute. Older children with assignments that will take several days or weeks to complete may need your help learning to manage their time.

• Checking to be sure assignments are complete is great, but don’t forget it is your child’s assignment, not yours. Do not do homework for your child.

• Read to your children or with them every night. Not only is this an enjoyable way to spend time together, it will benefit the child and help instill a love of learning.

By getting more involved, you can help your children make this school year their most successful one yet.